When Karen and I first married, we loved each other, but we both wanted each other to do better and to be better. I think all of us feel that way about our spouses at some point during marriage. Most of us feel that way about ourselves, too. That’s why self-help books are so popular. We can always do better.
Jesus identifies with this because the Bible describes the Church as His bride. We are the betrothed bride of Jesus and, one day, we will be His wife at the marriage supper of the Lamb. I realize that may sound odd to modern ears. Many believers-especially men-struggle to wrap their heads around this. I’m somebody’s wife? But that’s what Scripture tells us.
Isaiah 54:5 says, “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name.” Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” We are the bride of Christ, and that’s one of the most important things the Bible says about marriage. This sacred institution is designed to reflect our relationship with Jesus. And while that may be ideal, humans are not perfect. We have issues.
That’s why Jesus is always calling us to improvement. He wants His bride to be holy. He loves us with an everlasting love, but at the same time He wants to see us grow in righteousness and purity. Jesus is always working to build a better bride. The way He does this is spelled out in Hebrews 13:4-5. Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
One major way Jesus builds a better bride is through appreciation. Here’s a paraphrase of that statement above about marriage being honorable: Let every one of you highly value your marriage and regard your spouse as a precious gift from God.
Keeping marriage honorable means appreciating your spouse by telling them how valuable and precious they are to you. How do you do this? You show value through words and behavior.
For instance, Jesus showed our value when He gave His life for us. God didn’t just say He loved us, but showed it by exchanging the life of His Son for our eternity. He gave the most important thing He had for you and me. Nothing could make us feel more valued than that.
God forbid you’d ever be in a position to give your life for a husband or wife. But on a daily basis we can find ourselves in a position to make sacrifices for each other.
You give up the time you might have spent pursuing a hobby in order to be with your spouse.
Instead of coming home and putting your feet up, you help your spouse prepare dinner or you watch the kids.
When your spouse is sick, you give up your time or personal comfort to take care of them.
You give up time or money to buy surprise gifts for your spouse or to plan an activity honoring them.
You put a personal dream or goal on hold to help your spouse achieve his or her dreams.
All of these have some degree of personal sacrifice to them. When we take these actions, they show appreciation. Your behavior speaks volumes to your spouse. It shows how much you appreciate and value them.
We don’t just show gratitude by our behavior, of course. Think about your words. How do you speak to your spouse? Are your words critical or are they appreciative? Is your tone encouraging or is it accusatory? Are you tearing down your spouse with harsh words or are you building him or her up with praise?
Jesus sacrificed for us, and His example reveals so much to us about our eternal value. He proclaimed His love for His bride with words and He showed it with actions. The best way for us to improve ourselves and our marriage is to follow the example of Jesus.
Show your spouse how much you appreciate them. Then tell your spouse how thankful you are for them. Gratitude isn’t just a form of self-improvement. It will improve your marriage, too.